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The Five Health Essentials – Again

May 14, 2012

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, art, breathing, building block, boredom, cold shower, death, digestion, elements – exposure to, energy, freedom-loving country, hatred, life, mood, moving, muscle, music, natural order, nourishment, plants, protein, rejoice, relationships, relaxation, repair, rest, rest, repair and rejoice - order, sleep, sloth, The Five Health Essentials – Again, vegetal, waste, wellbeing

Water, movement, food, herbs and order are the five important areas you have to pay attention to if you want to be healthy.

Why does Natural Medicine promote exactly these five? It becomes clearer if we regroup them into a set of three:

1. Water and movement are needed to remind your body that it is still required to be alive. If you don’t move, and if you are not exposed to the elements (mostly cold), your body could as well not exist. A cold shower after a warm one reminds your body that it is still alive – that is why you come out of the cold shower brimming with energy, life and good mood. The same applies for movement. Life basically is movement – we diagnose death mostly by someone not moving, not breathing.
2. Food and herbs provide the building blocks so that this moving, breathing body is nourished and kept alive. What you eat is going into forming your body of tomorrow, it is essential to offer clean, fresh, mostly vegetal foods (plants) to your body – with enough proteins so that your body does not start to digest its own muscles.
3. Order – which always sounds strange in our freedom-loving country – is really about natural order: Rest, repair and rejoice are the three functions that go into the order category: Sleep, relaxation, relationships, art, music – whatever makes your life good adds to your wellbeing. In the long run, you can’t be well if you run your life against the natural grain with waste, hatred, boredom, sloth.

Peace on Earth - Common Sense

December 31, 2010

Tags: order, food, movement, alternative energy, banks, buying, car, charity, China, Club of Rome, common sense, consumption, cosmetics – harmful, disparity – income, education, food – processed, economic growth, economy, energy – alternative, energy – solar, energy – wind, energy – alternative fuels, Great Depression, Great Recession, health care, insanity, make-do, ministering to the needy, New Year’s resolution, nutritional bar, paradigm shift, peace, Peace on Earth, Peace on Earth - Common Sense, recycle, repair, shop less, sickness, West

This blog is written out of a desire to bring common sense to the health care debate. To have a system that can fix difficult diseases – brilliant! But to live a life that doesn’t make you sick in the first place – common sense.

We can agree on that. But can we also agree in some other areas? (I am not an expert on things beyond medicine - so be forewarned - this might be an intolerably bad blog entry). We can’t live sanely, if the world is out of whack. And it is.

The disparity between rich and poor is getting wider, the climate is changing (not for the better), the world’s banks are near-collapse, peace between nations appears to be elusive, terrorism is replacing meaningful discourse.

In this situation I would like a word from our leaders that it is time for a shift in paradigms: Individual consumption can’t save the world. We who are better off (and if you are sitting at a computer, you belong to the better-off group – as sorry as you might feel for your tight budget, debts, or unsure financial future) need to make do with what we have and have to find ways to be happier on less. Studies show that all that stuff we bought and consumed didn’t make us happier in the first place. Exactly the same thing is now happening in China – we, in the West, have not been a good role model, it seems.

Instead, we are hearing the same as before from our political leaders: Buy more, consume more – because that way you help the economy. The Club of Rome, a loose coming-together of prominent economists, predicted in 1972 that economic growth could not go on forever. Meanwhile we have been going through a near second Great Depression (called now the Great Recession) – and still it is business as usual.

I don’t want to help the economy by buying a bigger car, harmful cosmetics or processed food. This is my resolution for the New Year (much as I am against New Year’s resolution since I think every day is the beginning of a new year in our life, and every day should be lived to its best and most worthwhile): I want to become even more mindful in what I throw my money at.

• Charity is always a good think – but do your homework: Choose a charity where the money is really landing at the intended poor – not at the charity's CEOs.
• Fresh food. No “nutritional” bars but a chicken from an organic farmer. No “slimming down miracle” but fresh vegetables. No “enhanced” this or “fortified” that but real food. Not food substitutes.
• Alternative energies: Solar and wind are probably the best bet at this time. Fuel from corn or fuel from cow dung – those projects have not yet grown up.
• Education of the poor – here and abroad. The more education people have, the less likely they are to have too many children they can’t feed. The less people there are in the world, the better the chance for a good life for each of them – without religions that promise them a better life in the beyond and make them throw bombs here.
• Health care for all. For this I would be ready to pay higher taxes.
• Ministering to the needy: the disabled, the mentally ill, the homeless – without stifling the entrepreneurial spirit of this country.
• Shop less – shopping should not be a pastime. Reading is. Gardening is. Cross-stitching is. Find something worthwhile to do.
• Make it a hobby to do with less, to recycle, to repair.

Spending indiscriminately will not avert the financial crisis. Spending while improving the world might save our good old Earth.

Peace to all! Peace everywhere!

Yeah, and before I forget: Let's move more!

To Sleep or Not to Sleep

July 27, 2010

Tags: order, adrenalin, alcohol, breakfast, cheese, chemicals - harmful, computer, dairy, DNA repair, fast - nightly, feet - cold, feet - warm, grapes, insomnia, meal, melatonin, milk, radiation, repair, sleep, sleeplessness, snack, socks, soporific, To Sleep or Not to Sleep, tryptophan, TV, wet socks, wine

We all have heard that the tryptophan in milk, cheese or turkey makes us fall asleep faster – so off we go and enjoy a little snack at bedtime. I guess even doctors have given that advice.

It is bad advice. Tryptophan does not do the trick – and melatonin from wine or grapes does not do much either. Alcohol is the worst soporific because it makes you fall asleep by dampening down your brain - only your brain recovers and gets over-excited. So, you won't sleep long.

One should have the last meal not later than six or seven pm - and NOT have a snack before turning in to bed. We call it breakfast because we are supposed to break the nightly fast in the morning. If we eat late, the body is busy digesting instead of sleeping and repairing. Repair is crucial because daily we are exposed to harmful chemicals and radiation that break DNA strands which could lead to cancer.

The two things that help falling asleep easier are:

1. Going to bed with the early signs of tiredness. For most people that would be between eight and ten. If you then watch TV or sit at the computer, you get a second wind and sleep the worse for it. As a doctor who did many nights of duty, I know that one can experience even get a third and fourth and so on wind if needed – adrenalin always gets us going - but it is definitely not healthy.

2. Warm feet make you fall asleep as a study showed; cold feet keep you up. Taking a warm foot bath, or going to bed with socks might help. Perhaps you even one day you try the crazy-sounding “wet socks” - an old-world sleep remedy. I have tried them – they help: You need two pairs of socks; preferably one cotton, one wool, but both cotton works, too. Wet the cotton pair with cold water (as cold as comes from the faucet), wring lightly; they should be wet but not dripping. Put on the woolen pair of socks on top of it. You can wrap your feet in a towel if you want – but a bit of moisture does not hurt your bedding. Sleep.

You will sleep like a baby. If you wake in the night, you may remove towel and socks. But you might not wake until the morning.

If I Had an Incurable Disease...

June 28, 2010

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, arterial disease, autoimmune disease, cancer, carrots, cat food, chronic fatigue syndrome, cod liver oil, cold shower, dairy, declutter, diet, disease - incurable, Etruscan history, European Natural Medicine (ENM), exercise, eye infection, fibromyalgia, fish, fish oil, Five Health Essentials, foods - inflammatory, gardening, growth hormone, herpes, high blood pressure, hormones, If I Had an Incurable Disease..., immune disease, inflammatory foods, journaling, legumes, mandolin, meat, multiple sclerosis, mushrooms, oats, olive oil, phyto-nutrients, probiotics, quilting, repair, relationship - abusive, sarcoid, shower - cold, spirituality, vegetables, walk - daily, welding, whole grains, woodworking

At one point, my cat Kachi had a herpes eye infection that didn’t go away; whatever the vet tried – hundreds of dollars of medications (that was when I decided that I never again would put that much money into pet health care) - nothing helped.

When it threatened her good eye, I thought” What would I do in a patient who has an incurable disease?” Of course, the first thing that came to my mind was cleaning up my cat's diet.

Until then, she had been fed with dry food and cans – like so many pets. I stopped the dry food and cooked, pureed and froze her meals: meat, carrots, a handful of oats, fish.

Within a week, her eye started to heal. After three weeks she was fine. Interestingly, the condition returned, as soon as we returned to processed foods.

So this is what I would do if I had an incurable disease:

• Clean up my eating act. No dairy, as starters. Dairy provides double jeopardy in disease: It is highly inflammatory. Some poorly understood diseases – like sarcoid, autoimmune diseases, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and so on – will benefit from less inflammation. And dairy is a potent concoction of hormones that lets cells grow - which cancer patients should avoid it like the devil.

As always, don’t just avoid bad foods; cram your plate with good ones – and that means: vegetables, vegetables, vegetable. And herbs and fruit, of course. Plant material has all the phyto-nutrients that your body needs for repair. Plus, good oils like olive oil, fish, occasionally meat (but no deli and cured meats), whole grains, legumes.

But there is more:

• Moderate exercise. Don’t go crazy with mindless machines in a gym – just go for a daily walk, putter around in the garden, clean out attic and garage, and generally find things to do that involve movement.
• End every hot shower or bath with a short (seconds only) cold shower (unless you have uncontrolled high blood pressure or an arterial disease). A cold shower improved immune function, and if you have an ill-understood disease – like my cat’s herpes) – you want your immune system in best working order.
• Add medicinal mushrooms, probiotics, fish oil and cod liver oil to your regimen.
• Get a life: Don’t use sickness as an excuse not to pursue your dreams – go for them right now! Enroll in a course you always wanted to do: woodworking, Etruscan history, welding, playing the mandolin, quilting – whatever captures your fancy. Against physicians’ predictions, I have seen patients survive for many years on bad diseases. Because survival has much to do with the purpose in your life.
• Get a spiritual life: Write it down in your journal just like this: I believe in … And see what will come out. It might mot be religious - but it will be powerful because it stands for your deepest convictions. And then follow your path! Make connections with like-minded people. Needless to say: Let go of stifling, abusive, dead-end relationships (but don’t conclude too fast that it is all your spouse’s fault – it might well be yours; work on yourself first!).

Of course, here we have again the Five Health Essentials of European Natural Medicine: Water, movement, food, herbs, order. If I had an incurable disease, I would embrace these Health Essentials, and make the best of my life that it can be.

P.S. In the summer, I would make a daily garden tea.

Driving An Old Car

June 6, 2010

Tags: order, herbs, food, cars, Driving An Old Car, Earth, recycling, repair, reuse

When I carried my son at the ripe age of forty-two, my obstetrician was livid. He thought it was irresponsible and dangerous. “You can drive a twenty-year old Cadillac from the East Coast to the West Coast,” he declared, “BUT you will get into trouble!”

The comparison of my still nicely functioning body with an old car was insulting – to say the least. But history proved me right, and we have a wonderful, healthy son.

That, however, is not what I want to talk about today.

I want to praise old cars (and other old things). As of this day, my car is about fourteen years old and still running fine. When that car was much younger (but already dented and unfashionable), one of my patients declared: “With a car like that, you can’t be a good doctor!” Meaning: a good doctor can afford a newer, better car.

But can she? Apart from that my car is not a measure of my value or of my medical skills - am I not more than just a doctor – but also a steward of our good old Earth, like we all are, or should be? The longer I drive my old car, the fewer resources have to be used up, the more is saved. That is true for many things. So many items we buy nowadays get obsolete fast – and we retained nothing of their value. When I was a student, I made one day a totally irresponsible purchase: I bought a used Yamaha piano. I signed a check for money I didn’t have and then scrambled to borrow from my friends. Somehow, I made it – the check didn’t bounce. And so many years later the piano is still wonderful – and more worth than ever. – When my son now buys electronics (a cell phone, a laptop, an iPod), he uses them for a few short years, and then their value plunges toward zero. So many things we replace because they are not the newest item anymore, but they still pretty good, in working order and all. My Yankee (of course, I am not a Yankee – but feel akin) nature wants to preserve, repair, recycle.

In case you think this has nothing to do with medicine: The herbs I cherish and the plants I eat can only grow if we preserve our old Earth.

I will buy a new car if this one stalls and there is a hybrid station wagon on the market.

Simple Health Is Attainable

May 10, 2010

Tags: order, water, movement, food, health, herbs, balance, diabetes type II, heart-lung transplant, repair, simple health, Simple Health Is Attainable, smoking

Do you have diabetes?

Yes? Do you really HAVE diabetes? Or is it just a label you are carrying?

Not to dispute the reality of the symptoms you feel or the havoc the diabetic condition can wreak in your body - but they are, after all, just names doctors made up. A diagnosis helps to find a pill against the diagnosis.

That has its good sides, and its bad. Especially with a diagnosis of diabetes: Do you really believe that a single little pill can reverse years of not exercising and eating the wrong foods? I don’t.

But I do believe in simple sheer good health. Instead of fear-mongering with labels, let's focus on what we can do to stay/become healthy. Your body actually wants to get healthy and has a vast ability to repair itself - if you just give it some room and help. If you eat your green veggies, move briskly through life (instead of lingering on the couch or a chair in front of TV and computer), if you drink fresh water, do not smoke, relate warmly to other people, get enough sleep - you might never have to see a doctor all your life.

Admittedly, bad things happen to good people, and environmental hazards are as yet under-reported and not well understood in their impact on our bodies. But aside from that (and genetics), you are responsible for a good portion of your health. Estimates are not scientific – but an educated guess is that you hold about seventy-five percent of your health outcome in your hands.

Our bodies are really old, old things – not meant for driving in a car, eating TV dinner and marshmallows, staring at a screen for most of the day, exist holed up in our individual cubicles (at home and at work), exposed to noise, electronics, polluted air and other ills of modern times.

We don’t want to move back into the cave; we like the amenities of modern life – for instance the ease of connecting with loved ones via telephone of computers. The more it behooves us to counteract the bad modern influences and have as many of the natural elements in our lives as our good old bodies need: Water, movement, fresh food, herbs, and balance.

Back to diabetes (or any other diagnosis): If modern lifestyle is at the root of diabetes (and it is!), then go to the roots, make some meaningful changes, and don’t expect betterment from a little pill, please - not like the patient whom I once counseled against smoking: “The heck, when I get lung problems, they’ll give me a nice, new heart-lung transplant.”

Sleepless - And Unrepaired?

April 20, 2010

Tags: order, balance, cancer prevention, cell repair, cortisol, DNA repair, dreams, insomnia, obesity, stress, repair, sleep before midnight, Sleepless - And Unrepaired?, sleeplessness, weight

Can’t fall asleep? Toss and turn? Wake up at three and never be able to get some more winks?

Research about circadian rhythms has borne out what our grandmother’s told us: Sleep before midnight matters. The major repair work in the body happens from around eleven pm to one am. Repair means: Mending muscles, replacing worn-out cells, rewiring brain connections, restoring broken DNA before cancer can develop.

That repair will not happen if you are not in bed, not asleep.

Try basic sleep hygiene:

• Go to bed latest at ten. It helps to read some books – uplifting books rather than thrillers. But whatever works for you.
• Do not eat after dinner – preferably not after six pm. Because, if your body has to digest your stomach contents, it has less time for repair.
• No stimulants after noon (coffee, tea, coke, chocolate, etc.).
• Sleep with window open (if your neighborhood is not too noisy). Indoor pollution is usually worse than outdoor pollution, and you don’t want to re-breathe you own spent air all night.

Second thought: If we don't get enough sleep, we are stressed out the next day. Fact is that the quality of every day of your life is decided the evening before: Did you get to bed in time? Stress elevates cortisol in our body, and high cortisol makes us ravenously hungry. The stress hormone cortisol links poor sleep and obesity.

Last thought: When we were still living in caves, in the darkness, without electricity, we would be confined to our communal sleeping on and under bear skins for about twelve hours a night. Obviously, nobody can sleep that long. So, we woke up after four hours and had a little sex (took about five minutes). Then we would lie awake a while. Toward morning, we would sleep another four hours.

Question: What did we do during those unused three hours fifty-five minutes? We would think. Think a bout the meaning of the lingering dream that the Gods had sent. What did they want us to learn from this dream?

Nowadays we want to sleep effectively: eight hours per night, without waste of time. But something got lost along the line: The reflecting.

Next time, you can’t sleep, think about what is good in your life, and how you can do better. Remember what you wanted your life to be when you were a kid. Dare to dream!
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D. 2012, by Lolita Parker jr.

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